Protestors deploy tank to make point over Third World arms sales

A tank and loud protests disrupted banking group HSBC Holding's annual meeting as demonstrators railed against UK subsidiary Midland Bank's financing of Third World arms sales. The 1963 Abbot self-propelled gun, British-made and taxed for UK roads, rumbled towards London's Barbican centre as shareholders arrived. The engine briefly drowned the noise from around 60 peaceful protestors. "Arms Trade No, Fair Trade Yes" they chanted in a demonstration organised by the World Development Movement. HSBC admitted financing the sale of Hawk trainer aircraft in 1993 to Indonesia, which invaded East Timor 20 years ago. But chairman Sir William Purves said it could not be held to account for Midland's Iraqi activities in the 1980s, when it did not own the bank. Nor would he promise to quit the arms trade. "There is no evidence that those Hawk aircraft were used there (in East Timor)," he said. "I cannot give you the assurance you seek that we will not undertake the finance of arms to other countries ... it is an important part of our business." HSBC's shares fell 14p to 803.5p on dollar weakness and the cautious statement.

Photograph: Nicholas Turpin

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